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5 Truths About Empowering People to Change the World

People

Photo by Tim Pirfält.

In the Bourne series, the assassins (who are the central characters) are referred to by their controlling agency merely as “assets.” Sometimes I fear that within Christian ministry, we fall into the terrible habit of treating people as assets – instruments to help us get ministry done successfully rather than people with souls. One of the values I remind myself of often is that people are not a means for getting ministry done. People are the ministry. And those who volunteer are not placed in our path to make us successful, but so that we can help them to grow and to move forward.

To keep ourselves from the edge of the slippery slope of using people to get ministry done, it’s important to remember some hard, unchanging truths…

1. Ministry is about relationships, not results.

If we think like much of the surrounding corporate world, as much of the western church does, then we see goals and figures without seeing people. I’m all for looking at numbers to celebrate and evaluate, but never for the purpose of determining who is and isn’t useful to the kingdom. It isn’t about what a volunteer or staff member can produce in the way of results for us. It’s about what kind of growth we can help to produce in that leader. Growing leaders typically have growing ministries, but numerical success is the byproduct of healthy relationships.

2. People are souls, with or without roles.

If we ever leave someone in a role because of their talent while their personal life is falling apart, we’ve failed. As leaders and shepherds, it is our calling to create healing and health deep within the souls of people. So when people walk into the room, our first question shouldn’t be are you ready to get to work? It should rather be something like how’s life going? How’s your soul doing?

3. Jesus modeled people empowerment perfectly.

Jesus wept over people, prayed over people, and eventually died for people. He gave up His time and His comfort to serve others. And He accepted the rejection, criticism, and abandonment that He would receive from His people, even knowing full well that it was coming. Then at the end of His earthly story, He released His people to go change everything with the gospel. If you want to know how to empower people, start by looking at Jesus.

4. Everybody matters, and every life has dignity.

To use anyone for what they can produce, or to reject someone because we doubt they can produce, is to insult the One who created all people with inherent dignity. Moses even learned this lesson when he questioned his own ability to be a persuasive speaker. God responded simply, “Who made your mouth?” In the business world, we select the most qualified. But in the Kingdom, everybody gets to participate!

5. I’m a people too.

Some awesome mentors and friends have poured into me, expecting nothing in return. Someone is waiting for me to pay it forward. It’s the way this idea of ministry is supposed to work. Don’t use people, empower them.

Metrics: Balancing Stats and Stories

Line ChartChurch metrics. That’s not a very pretty phrase. In fact, for many, it seems cold. If church becomes a numbers game, then people become “just a number,” and when people are just a number, we’ve failed to emulate the ministry of Jesus. But if we fail to count anybody, we allow people to slip through the cracks and therefore fail to emulate the ministry of Jesus.

So how do you count people in a way that makes each person count? You balance the stats and the stories. In other words, who was there on Sunday is even more important than how many were there. I’m leading a breakout session during Exponential (it will be in their podcast some time soon) on “The Metrics of the Craveable Church.” I didn’t pick the title, or the topic for that matter. But what I’m emphasizing is that how many people showed up is not nearly as important as how many people moved. How many people gave their lives to Jesus, submitted to baptism, joined a small group, and got involved in a ministry for the first time?

We’re planting a church and when I travel, people often ask me how it’s going. Usually they’re asking “how many are you running?” I usually know the answer because we’ve counted people, since people count. But I try not to give them numbers. Instead, I try to tell a story. A young man stepped up to give his life to Jesus and he’s different now. A couple was spiritually disconnected and they’re worshipping side-by-side now. An alcoholic feels accepted without judgment.

The statistics we take help us measure what we’re doing right and wrong, whether we’re moving people forward spiritually, and whether we’re effective. But it is the stories that tell us whether we’re actually doing the right things, whether we are speaking the truth in love, and whether we are really there for people.

I like stats, spreadsheets, and line charts, but they don’t melt my heart. Stories do. What’s yours?

Committees Don’t Do Ministry, People Do Ministry

Death by Committee

Death by Committee

Committees meet. They schedule a meeting to talk about all the stuff there is to do and who could possibly do it. I was reading this morning from John Maxwell’s Leadership Gold: Lessons I’ve Learned from a Lifetime of Leading. In chapter 18, entitled “the secret to a good meeting is the meeting before the meeting,” Maxwell quotes Harry Chapman as giving a list of how to handle being on a committee:

  • Never arrive on time: this stamps you as a beginner.
  • Don’t say anything until the meeting is over: this stamps you as being wise.
  • Be as vague as possible: this avoids irritating others.
  • When in doubt, suggest that a subcommittee be appointed.
  • Be the first to move for adjournment: this will make you popular – it’s what everyone is waiting for.

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This is the Age of Many Hats

pssst - keep this under your hatI was just reading an interview with a blogger named Rose who mentioned wearing “many hats.” In her case, “wife, mother, respite worker, proud shih-tzu owner, blogger, published poet, freelance writer, as well as the owner and administrator of todayswriting.com and bloggertalk.net.” This got me to thinking about my own life and yours too. In fact, it got me thinking about how the wearing of “many hats” is a trend.

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The Tougher Side of Leadership: Patience with People

People… they’re all around us! There are nearly seven billion of them on the planet and they’re all different. I think God purposely puts us in relationships (marriage, work, church, etc.) with people who are vastly different than we are and then chuckles as we try to get along. But get along we must – it’s part of our purpose. One of the greatest challenges of leadership is learning to be patient with people. The payoff is huge, but it’s certainly not easy.

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